I love animals. And anybody who knows me will know I dedicate my life to the ones in my care. But I’m continually conflicted with being in between providing my animals with the best quality food, and also being zero-waste.
Why? Because almost ALL pre-made food for animals comes in packaging – and it’s nearly always plastic!
What’s a human to do? For the record I’m aware that dogs can survive without pre-made dog biscuits but I’m hesitant, because I think it provides them with a nice nutritionally sound meal and is also FANTASTIC for their teeth.
So here are some of the things I’ve done of the last year to improve my impact on the planet, without sacrificing the quality of care I give my animals – plus a few tips from people I know who own other types of animals.
These are my babies – Zane the Pain, rescued from a group called Big Dog Rescue; and Ziggy and Floyd – two lab guinea pigs rescued by a group called Research Animal Rehoming Services. I urge everybody to always rescue animals if you are ever considering having a loving fur baby (or scale or feather baby for that matter) as part of your family. It is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do – and what you also don’t contribute to is the wasteful, cruel industries like backyard breeders and puppy farms. What you do contribute to is saving lives of those most vulnerable – dogs and cats in shelters get put down by the thousands on an almost daily basis. And what you get in return is loyalty, love and commitment.
Back to what I do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to zero-waste my pets as much as possible
- I buy in bulk
Whilst I’m yet to find an alternative to packaged dog biscuits, this is my solution. One 25kg bag of dog biscuits lasts me 3-4 months – I could even stretch that further if I was better organised and made more home-made dog food (maybe another time)
Most shops that sell dog biscuits will usually have a bulk option – I try to support places where I know my money will stretch further. BDR on the Central Coast of NSW – where I rescued my dog from – sells bags in bulk at a usually discounted price, and all the profits go to helping them rescue more dogs.
I also buy my guinea pig hay in bulk and save A LOT of money – I spent $50 every quarter on hay (more about that below)
- I buy local, from local people
I was getting sick and tired of spending $20 a week for tiny bags of hay that lasted me less than 3 days. And with that also came packaging.
So I took to gumtree to see what I could find – and there’s so many people selling bricks of hay for SUPER CHEAP (so there’s that added advantage).
The lady I buy from lives about 15 minutes away from me in Northmead – and she’s so lovely! I pay $5 extra for delivery, and she was nice enough to opt out of the cling wrapping of my hay to accommodate my ‘no-plastic’ rule (in fact she commended it!) – she even ever so nicely put in some free pellets in a cardboard box – I’ll definitely be buying them next time!
So my tip is ASK – or if you know where to buy it in bulk, ask them to not pre-package it for you and bring your own bags or boxes to put the hay in
- I make my own dog food from ingredients I eat
I consider myself healthy, and considering dogs are omnivores I can only assume that apart from the fruit and veg I know they can’t eat – most of what I eat is going to be good for my dog. On a weekly basis Zane eats a variety of vegetables including pumpkin, potato, broccoli, carrot, oats, peanut butter and many more. I’m incredibly lucky that he has adjusted to a semi-vegan diet, and in fact he LOVES most of those vegetables mentioned above and will pick around the other food in his bowl to get to them first.
I also have a recipe for some dog food ‘nuggets’ that I make here.
As for my Guinea Pigs? They eat a variety of fruit and veg on a daily basis, followed by pellets and hay. Their diet is super easy to zero-waste because I’ve already managed to zero-waste that aspect of my diet too!
- I compost their waste
All of the waste hay, and poop, from the Guinea Pigs (and dog) simply gets composted. Not much else I can say about this – other than I try as best I can to not use any plastic in their cage. Their cages are lined with newspaper, which can also be composted.
**side note – if you have a dog and a worm farm DO NOT put dog poo into the worm farm. Dogs get de-wormed monthly, which will kill all of your worms. It’s for this reason I have a compost.
I’ve also been told the same with cats – using wood chips or shredded paper as litter is totally possible, which can then be thrown into green-waste bins, or composted.
Highly recommend guinea pigs to anybody who is thinking about wanting some furry companions but is struggling with how to zero-waste their lifestyle.
- Cleaning Animals –
Guinea Pigs, Cats and other rodents actually don’t require much maintenance in this regard – but good ol’ stinky pants Zane does!
My rule of thumb is if it’s safe for my head, it’s probably safe for doggo – all my shampoo products are plant based and natural, so that’s good enough for me. So in this regard I wash my dog the same way I wash myself – using shampoo that I’ve obtained from bulk food stores in a re-fillable bottle =)
I also brush his teeth with old toothbrushes I no longer use by sanitising them in boiling water and salt first. Then I just brush his teeth either with my own toothpaste (which has no harmful ingredients to animals) or coconut oil.
- Have lizards?
My house-mate was sick of buying crickets for her rescue lizards in small plastic containers (side note – yes we are all vegan, but various animals need things that may not always be vegan, and for us that is more important) so once again took to gumtree to find a place that delivers them in a sack.
The crickets have an enclosure where they breed, which also means her money stretches further. Then once they’re gone all she has left is a sack that can be re-used.
If I find any more tips I’ll edit this blog in the future. But for now I’m hoping this may provide you with enough info to help you transition your pets into a semi or zero-waste life!